Energy & Sustainability Symposium

This is a graphic design from Shutterstock. Green energy icons over the globe. This is a graphic design from Shutterstock. Green energy icons over the globe.

2020 Energy & Sustainability Symposium Workshop

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  • Impact of Permanent Neutrality on Climate Change and International Security

    Climate change is a global phenomenon that requires a global response. The Catholic University of America and the University of Miami are developing a knowledge-hub for solutions, strategies, and security mechanisms related to permanent neutrality and neutralization to suspend regional conflicts and allow each country to focus on all aspects of domestic and foreign policy making from security to trade, development of global health; food security to energy.  Based on multilateral and bilateral relations a collective capacity will be able to respond to these challenges. This Center will produce a series of workshops and reports on the challenges permanent neutrality overcomes to address the impact of climate change with recommendations for policymakers worldwide to address public goods and the security of the international world order through cooperation based on global governance.

    Currently, there are dozens of grand-strategic developments, including a changed energy security environment with the collapse of global oil markets and US energy self-sufficiency through shale oil and gas production, bringing about a (novel) awareness for the over-arching threat of climate change to these industries and the environment. What all this boils down to is that the Post-WWII Order is ending, and what is coming next is going to be inherently globally less stable due to existential causes for climate change. The effects of loss of sea ice, accelerated sea-level rise, and more intense heat waves will extend into countless social, political, and economic upheavals. The cause and effect of climate change and conflict will become more relevant as the debate rages on about the concept of climate change as a ‘threat multiplier.’ Appreciating the role of climate change related to international security is vital for understanding the local costs it will have on all people. The need to understand the links between the mechanisms at work between climate change, armed conflicts, and international security leads to the concept of neutrality and neutralization to suspend hostilities to focus on the threat multipliers threatening all people regardless of their geopolitical differences. While countries have shown a willingness to put aside their differences during times of natural disasters, such as earthquakes, tsunamis, and hurricanes, neutrality will build upon this sentiment, especially as the severity of natural disasters increases because of climate change.

    As the world is racing towards a future of multi-polarity, regional economic and military heavyweights will compete for influence in their respective ‘spheres of interest,’ not unlike the European balance of power of the nineteenth century. In this context, the primordial question will be how to stabilize that system while avoiding the cataclysm of war that, in the past, proved to be the only means to settle issues of power. The threat of stumbling into the unknown risks of climate warming with potentially a global war without intention but with necessity, due to the logic of the system that has been built. To avoid the threat, not only is a new foundation needed for global security but an architecture overall that structures the game - Permanent Neutrality. 

    This workshop proposes to suspend conflicts by re-thinking an age-old institution: Neutrality. The entire concept lay dormant for the past decades. Still, it is well defined and well-studied, ready for immediate deployment, while also intuitive and malleable enough to adapt to the needs of the twenty-first century. Back in the nineteenth century, when Neutrality was elevated from a security strategy to a norm of International Law to be known as ‘permanent neutrality,’ the world has seen its first (and last) global multi-polar security system. It is known as the "Concert of Europe," and featured at its core the idea of a balance of power, and the codification of state conduct. For this system to work, Neutrality was not only a feature but a fundamental premise of the game. In a nutshell: to keep a multi-polar system with different centers of power economically prosperous and militarily secure, you need neutral trading partners that also function as buffer zones between large rivals; Switzerland, Belgium, Sweden but even the UK and the US served this purpose—in one way or the other—until WWI.

    Today the US is slowly shifting its engagement in global affairs with neutrality as a statecraft once again becoming relevant to our time. Neutral security corridors of neighboring states between NATO and Russia, a belt of countries in East Asia, and the China Seas become permanently neutral, or countries in the Middle East voluntarily neutralize themselves act as buffer zones with the effect of reducing tension between rivaling great powers as trade can continue. The commitments made to transform the pockets of conflict into mutually important geographical stable areas based on a set of rules allow elites of different countries to focus on the social and economic impact of climate change and potential prosperity. The effects of climate change to respect national boundaries and their plans and responses must be coordinated on a regional basis. Most importantly, the logic of a global security system revolving around the pillars of neutrality, controlling climate change, and halting conflicts can work because they serve the self-interest of the nations involved—the necessary premise for the stability of any system. Although the Swiss were neutralized by outside forces in 1815, they would fight to the death to defend their neutrality, which has become the cornerstone of their self-image and foreign policy. At the same time, they (and other neutrals) have been actively contributing humanitarian relief, good offices, and diplomatic services to the world at large because it was in their own best interest to reduce hostile tensions among countries.

2020 Energy & Sustainability Symposium Roundtable

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  • Ted Huang - Venture Partner, The Westly Group

    Prior to joining The Westly Group as a Venture Partner, Ted Huang was the Chief Digital Investment Officer of Tokyo Gas and has been instrumental in forming the digital innovation strategy as well as executing on the corporate venture business for Tokyo Gas out of Tokyo and US. Before that, he actively advised global industrials, transportation, energy, and sovereign entities on market growth strategy, capital efficiency, risk management, fund raising, and business transformation.

    Mr. Huang has been primarily based in Asia Pacific with firms such as Citigroup, JP Morgan, and Barclays Capital. His knowledge of the startup ecosystems in Asia combined with the understanding of the strategic investors’ mindset will contribute to our portfolio growth in the most populous and highest growth region in the world. He holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from The University of Michigan, and an MBA from INSEAD.

  • Michael Ratner - Specialist in Energy Policy, Congressional Research Service (CRS)

    Michael Ratner is a Specialist in Energy Policy at Congressional Research Service (CRS), focusing on natural gas and oil markets, as well as other energy sources and infrastructure issues.  He uses his industry experience to provide Members of Congress a practical view of policy and the effects policy will have on industry and society writ large. Since joining CRS, Mr. Ratner has carved out natural gas as a specialty and developed natural gas as a separate area of research. He has written over 40 policy reports and answered more than 2,000 congressional inquiries. Mr. Ratner has also testified before both the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate on energy issues, and he is a frequent speaker at global, industry conferences. Mr. Ratner’s recent CRS work has addressed U.S. LNG exports, China’s natural gas situation, alternatives to Russian natural gas for Europe, LNG as a maritime fuel, and U.S. unconventional natural gas and oil production.  Mr. Ratner leads research teams to comprehensively analyze energy policy. In 2020, he was selected as a Kluge Fellow within the Library of Congress.

    In addition to his work at CRS, Mr. Ratner is an adjunct professor for energy issues at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS). Prior to joining CRS, Mr. Ratner was a senior energy analyst at the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in global natural gas issues.  In this capacity, Mr. Ratner provided senior government officials, including the President of the United States and other cabinet-level officials, strategic and tactical analysis of the global energy sector. With over 25 years of energy experience, Mr. Ratner has also worked as an investment banker in the Houston office of WestLB AG, providing $188 million in financing to U.S. and Canadian small to mid-sized shale companies.  He also led negotiations for the successful sale of development rights to a Canadian liquefied natural gas import terminal. 

    Mr. Ratner worked for four years in Enron's domestic natural gas pipeline division, two years prior to the company’s bankruptcy and two years after its fall, focused on mergers, acquisitions, and divestitures. During his time at Enron, Mr. Ratner bid on over $12 billion in assets. Before Enron, Mr. Ratner worked as a project manager for Coastal Power Company, developing natural gas-fired electric generation projects in the United States and Pakistan, where he was posted for nine months.  Mr. Ratner also has experience in various aspects of the energy industry, including as an upstream analyst for PFC Energy, now part of IHS, and staff writer for the Energy Intelligence publications.  Mr. Ratner has a Masters of Science in Mineral Economics from the Colorado School of Mines, a Masters of Arts in International Economics and U.S. Foreign Policy from Johns Hopkins’ School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS), and a Bachelor of Arts in International Relations from Columbia University.

  • Joel Yudken - Sectoral Economist & Technology Policy Analyst, Public Policy Department, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO)

    Dr. Joel S. Yudken is Sectoral Economist and Technology Policy Analyst in the Public Policy Department, American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) in Washington, D.C. His work focuses on developing labor-based industrial strategies in response to technological and economic change, with an emphasis on the issues of environmental and climate change, electronic commerce, and the information technology workforce. Over his career, he has written, spoken, and consulted extensively on science, technology, and industrial policy, technology and workplace change, economic development, and defense conversion. He is co-author of Making Changing Happen, Six Cases of Unions and Companies Transforming Their Workplaces (WTI, 1996) and Smart Workers, Smart Machines: A Technology Policy for the 21st Century (WTI, 1996). His articles have appeared in Issues in Science and Technology, WorkingUSA, Technology Review, Forum for Applied Research and Public Policy, World Policy Journal, Business and Society Review, and The Entrepreneurial Economy. He holds a bachelor’s in electrical engineering from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and a Master of Science in engineering-economic systems and a Ph.D. in technology and society from Stanford University

Our Symposium in the Media

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Published Works

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  • The Impact of Emerging Economies on Global Energy and The Environment: Challenges Ahead

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    Changing patterns of energy production and consumption are transforming the geopolitics of the global system. The BRICS countries: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (not discussed in this volume), a loose conglomeration of emerging powers, are part of the change as are Western powers.

    Variations in the energy policies of the Americas, especially the United States and Canada, are altering existing dynamics. Both states are increasing energy production and are projected to become energy independent in the very near future. The BRICS themselves wield much energy power as well. Specifically, Russia’s oil policy and China’s coal policy are creating for the world a new infrastructure within which middle and weaker countries may consider as the future.

    This edited volume summarizes our analysis with particular emphasis on the rapidly changing role of the BRICS in the world’s energy system. In this collection, energy experts and international relations analysts examine production and consumption of states, the exportation and importation of energy, and alternative strategies for maintaining the international order or changing the international order

  • After the Fall: Energy Security, Sustainable Development, and the Environment

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    This edited volume examines the impacts of the 2014-2015 decline in the price of oil. Participants will examine the economic, social and political consequences on states and regions, along with their responses. The following questions will be examined: what were the impacts for countries experiencing an energy revolution in shale and gas like the United States and Canada? What were the repercussions of the collapse on other states of the Western hemisphere dependent on oil for growth and development; countries like Colombia, Venezuela and Mexico? Were these outcomes similar to those experiences in other parts of world like Nigeria, Russia and other petro-producing countries? How do developing countries intend to cope with such drastic and sudden exogenous economic shock? Will there be any benefits for energy poor, consumer countries like China, India and European Union member states? Related to these issues are sustainable developmental questions and concerns about the environment. Will cheap oil force other alternative and renewable energy technologies out of the market given lack of competitiveness? Finally, the volume’s chapters will discuss prospects for governance in the new oil environment

  • Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability in the Western Hemisphere

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    In light of the rapid fluctuations in oil prices and subsequent impact on the stability and economic perspectives of energy producing and energy importing states in the Western Hemisphere, this book stresses the urgency to integrate sustainability at the very core of national energy security strategies. From Canada to Argentina, this edited volume analyzes a series of case studies and diverging paradigms across the continent. It underlines how the relatively recent exploitation of unconventional energy sources in North America and the resulting impact on prices impact the geopolitical concerns of traditional producers. It also explains how much energy strategies are central to the development of national economies and the stability of their society. Highlighting the shortcomings in several countries even at a time of high prices, the volume makes the case for an inclusive and holistic approach to energy security that would integrate environmental concerns at its very core. This edited volume also explains how this new energy independence of the western Hemisphere affects its foreign policy with the main international actors in the field of energy whether traditional producers or consumers. Finally, it provides key insights on successful strategy towards the development of alternative sources of energy